Name: Hayley Smith
Company: ACCESS
Job title: Helpdesk officer

What brought you to the Leiden region?

My husband was looking for a new job, and we had been considering a move to another country just for the experience. I came over with him when he had an interview in Leiden, and as soon as we walked into the town we both fell in love with the place. Luckily, he was offered the job and three months later we were here!

How long have you been living in the Netherlands?

Since May 2012 (five years).

What is the main difference between your country of origin and the Netherlands?

Shopping! Even after five years I do miss British supermarkets and department stores. I have managed to adapt to the Dutch way of food shopping several times a week and having to go to several different shops (and the market) to find everything I want. But I do appreciate that the Dutch are less consumerist than the British, and shopping is not really seen as a pastime in the way that it is in the UK and some other countries. Other than that, I don’t think there are huge differences between the Netherlands and the UK. The public transport and cycling infrastructure are better here though.

What would you miss most about the Netherlands if you were to leave tomorrow?

Definitely the cycling culture. I LOVE being on my bike and being able to get around safely and easily. Back in the UK I wouldn’t even have considered a 5minute bike ride to the local supermarket as the roads were too dangerous.

How would you describe the Dutch people?

Forthright, honest, down to earth, and open. I consider myself to be quite broad minded for a Brit but I have at times been taken aback by the Dutch attitude to privacy. For example, when I received an appointment to get a flu shot I was surprised to find a long line of people at the doctor’s surgery. When it was my turn I just stood by the nurse and she jabbed me in front of the rest of the people waiting. Back in the UK you would be taken into a room or had a curtain round you at the least! I do though really like the way though that everybody says hello when they come into a waiting room.

Could you recommend any blogs or websites concerning the Netherlands?

I can highly recommend the website of the organisation I volunteer for – ACCESS. There is lots of useful information and advice on there, and it is kept up to date by a team of internationals who have experience of living outside their home country. Also Dutchnews.nl is good for getting a general idea of what is going on in the Netherlands but with a focus on stories relevant to internationals.

Do you have any tips for new arrivals in the Leiden region?

Get on your bike and explore. The centre of Leiden is fantastic, but there are also some gems on the outskirts such as restaurants in old mills, and large kringloops (recycle stores) where you can find practically anything from second-hand furniture to books.